Painted Ladies

by Robert B. Parker

A Spenser Novel

The brilliant new Spenser novel from the beloved New York Times-bestselling author Robert B. Parker.

Called upon by The Hammond Museum and renowned art scholar Dr. Ashton Prince, Spenser accepts his latest case: to provide protection during a ransom exchange—money for a stolen painting.

The case becomes personal when Spenser fails to protect his client and the valuable painting remains stolen. Convinced that Ashton Prince played a bigger role than just ransom delivery boy, Spenser enters into a daring game of cat-and-mouse with the thieves. But this is a game he might not come out of alive...

Completed the year before he passed away, Painted Ladies is Spenser and Robert B. Parker at their electrifying best.


"One of the best in this long series...Parker's incapable of writing a bad sentence... (Parker) will be missed, but his style will never go out of fashion. Nor will his plots, his probings and his penetration of the twisted darkness in the human heart."
The Providence Journal

"A fast and fun outing...Parker was a true stylist. His strength was in his sparseness and Painted Ladies shows him in fine form."
The Boston Globe

"As with all of Parker's 70 novels, the prose is tight and muscular and the dialogue is superb. A must read for faithful fans of the series."
Associated Press

"The book delivers everything else we expect from a Spenser story, such as the crisp dialogue and short chapters. The joy of these novels has never really been about solving the mystery. Nor were they about hard-boiled fiction. The fun was spending time with Spenser, to be a fly on the wall observing a knight errant in the modern world. For his decency, strength and taste, Spenser reassured us in an ever-changing world that the good guys can still win in the end, at least once in a while."

"In Spenser's end is his beginning. ...Spenser can still nail a person's foibles on first meeting, still whip up a gourmet meal in a few minutes, still dispatch the thugs who haunt his office and his home, and do it all while maintaining a fierce love of Susan Silverman and English poetry... Halfway through this thoroughly entertaining mystery, Parker writes a perfect valedictory for the much-loved Spenser: 'Sometimes I slew the dragon and galloped away with the maiden. Sometimes I didn't...But so far the dragon hadn't slain me.' Long live Spenser."

"What Robert B. Parker was good at, for some 40 years and more than 60 books, was creating fast-paced, smoothly written, entertaining and even addictive stories, more than half of them involving Spenser, who often seemed vain (in a self-deprecating way) and smug, but who was always aware of his job's demands and was willing and able to meet them. Not a bad legacy to bequeath the present."
The Wall Street Journal

"Parker's dialogue—filled with a mix of wisecracks and psychological insights and enough literary references to fill a doctoral dissertation—ranks with the best of his era. He could say more with less than even the master he studied and modeled his work on, Raymond Chandler, whose unfinished work Poodle Springs, Chandler's family entrusted Parker to finish in 1989...An indelible figure, even if we never learned his first name, Spenser could out-fight and out-shoot—or, at least, survive—everyone from gang-bangers to mob muscle to the Chandler-inspired Grey Man....Others will follow him, and some will do their part to fill the void. But none will be Robert B. Parker. And readers are the poorer for that.
Chicago Sun-Times

Buy the book

paperback | Berkley | 2010 | ISBN: 9780425243626



My first client of the day (and of the week, truth be known) came into my office on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and sat in one of my client chairs. He was medium-height and slim, wearing a brown tweed suit, a blue paisley bow tie, and a look of satisfaction.

"You're Spenser," he said.

"Yes, I am," I said.

"I am Dr. Ashton Prince," he said.

He handed me a card, which I put on my desk.

"How nice," I said.

"Excuse me?"

"What can I do for you, Dr. Prince."

"I am confronted with a matter of extreme sensitivity," he said.

I nodded.

"May I count on your discretion?" he said.

"Sure," I said.

"I'm serious," he said.

"I can tell," I said.

He frowned slightly. Less in disapproval than in uncertainty.

"Well," he said, "may I?"

"Count on my discretion?"


"At the moment, I don't have anything to be discreet about," I said. "But I would be if I did."

He stared at me for a moment, then smiled.

"I see," he said. "You're attempting to be funny."

"'Attempting'?" I said.

"No matter," Prince said. "But I need to know you are capable of taking my issues seriously."

"I'd be in a better position to assess that," I said, "if you told me what your issues were."

He nodded slowly to himself.

"I was warned that you were given to self-amusement," he said. "I guess there's no help for it. I am a professor of art history at Walford University. And I am a forensic art consultant in matters of theft and forgery."

And pleased about it.

"Is there such a matter before us?" I said.

He took in some air and let it out audibly.

"There is," he said.

"And it requires discretion," I said.

"Very much."

"You'll get all I can give you," I said.

"All you can give me?"

"Anything," I said, "that your best interest, and my self-regard, will allow."

"Your 'self-regard'?"

"I try not to do things that make me think ill of myself."

"My God," Prince said. "I mean, that's a laudable goal, I suppose. But you are a private detective."

"All the more reason for vigilance," I said.

He took another deep breath. He nodded slowly.

"There is a painting," he said, "by a seventeenth-century Dutch artist named Frans Hermenszoon."

"Lady with a Finch," I said.

"How on earth did you know that?" Prince said.

"Only Hermenszoon painting I've ever heard of."

"He painted very few," Prince said. "Hermenszoon died at age twenty-six."

"Young," I said.

"Rather," Prince said. "But Lady with a Finch was a masterpiece. Is a masterpiece. It belongs to the Hammond Museum. And last week it was stolen."

"Heard from the thieves?" I said.


"Ransom?" I said.


"And if you bring any cops in, they'll destroy the painting," I said.


"So what do you want from me?" I said.

"The Hammond wants the whole matter handled entirely, ah, sotto voce. They have asked me to handle the exchange."

"The money for the painting," I said.

"Yes, and I am, frankly, uneasy. I want protection."

"Me," I said.

"The chief of the Walford campus police asked a friend at the Boston Police Department on my behalf, and you were recommended."

"I'm very popular there," I said.

"Will you do it?"

"Okay," I said.

"Like that?" Prince said.

"Sure," I said.

"What do you charge?"

I told him. He raised his eyebrows.

"Well," he said. "I'm sure they will cover it."

"The museum."

"Yes," he said. "And if they won't cover it all, I'll make up the difference out of pocket."

"Generous," I said.

"You're being ironic," he said.

"It is you I'm protecting," I said.

"I know," he said. "The painting, too. It is not merely a brilliant piece of art, though that would be enough. It is also the expression of a distant life, cut sadly short." "I'll do my best," I said. "Which I'm told," Prince said, "is considerable." I nodded. "'Tis," I said.